The Curious Case of the Christian Abortion Cake

Consider: A 20-something woman walks into a bakery named Immaculate Risings — the double entendre refers to both Jesus’ resurrection and dough’s amazing transformation while in a hot oven. The woman proceeds to the counter to make her order. After the baker bids her good day and asks how he can assist her, the woman requests a cake to commemorate her first abortion. The baker, a portly, elderly chap pauses for a moment. Shaking his head, and as a result, the gleaming cross that dangles in front of a flour-stained apron, he apologizes and says he cannot bake such a cake because doing so would affirm what he believes to be murder. He quotes the Sixth Commandment and cites the implications about the unborn found in Jeremiah 1:5 for justification. His response infuriates the woman. She stamps out of Immaculate Risings after a few choice words about “checking privilege” and “perpetuating the violence of the patriarchy” interspersed with a few other choice words. A couple days later, the Christian baker receives a letter informing him that someone reported him as in violation of the state’s public accommodation statute, and he thusly is summoned to court for his alleged discrimination.

But did he, in point of fact, discriminate? Is he also morally guilty of bigotry toward women? Of sexism? Did he deny service to the woman on the grounds of her sex? Does he have a problem about serving women because of some irrational prejudice against them?

Putting aside the legality of his refusal, I hope you see that the answers to these questions are an unequivocal “no,” and manifestly so. Withholding service so as not to condone abortion is not tantamount to withholding service on the basis of sex. Undergoing an abortion is not the same thing as having female reproductive parts even if having female reproductive parts is necessary to undergo an abortion. The baker is not discriminating by personal characteristics but personal behavior. So it’s bonkers to confuse his refusal with either an implicit or overt chauvinistic attitude about women somehow being unfit to consume his baked goods. He regularly and happily sells to women in a host of other contexts. His livelihood depends on sales and commissioned jobs; why would he endanger his bottom line by ruling out half of the population for his clientele? Religiously inspired or not, it’s obvious the baker harbors no animus towards the fairer sex. There is a clear ontological distinction in objecting to the act a person commits rather than the person himself.

Then why don’t progressives grant it and the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Christian bakers, florists and the like who refuse to cater to same-sex weddings, the most recent being the decision in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers on Feb. 16?

I propose, mutatis mutandis, there is no relevant difference between saying “no” to baking a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding and saying “no” to baking a cake to celebrate an abortion. As ruled by the Supreme Court, there are constitutional rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. Both involve leftist pet classes in apparent need of protection. Sex and sexual orientation are both considered as innate immutable characteristics like race. Plus, they both feature freely chosen acts that emanate from those immutable characteristics. After all, in the words of its advocates, abortion is a “choice.” Presumably, saying “I do” is too.

Furthermore, whether feminists actually call for abortion cakes out of some perverse sense of entitlement on any sort of regular basis misses what’s of consequence (though in the age of “Abortion Selfies,” #shoutyourabortion, and Teen Vogue publishing a post-abortion gift guide, it’s perhaps not as farfetched as it sounds). It’s not a matter of the occurrence being hypothetical or rare — so are Christians’ refusals to participate in same-sex weddings. The thought experiment shows that there is no meaningful difference, in principle, between requesting either a cake for an abortion or a same-sex wedding.

Then what could account for a potential discrepancy in plausible attitudes between the two cases? If it’s “nay” for abortion but also “yea” for same-sex wedding, then, in that case, progressives have some explaining to do.

But suppose the progressive is an equal opportunity social justice warrior, meaning he doesn’t discriminate in this regard; no, he’s uniformly ruthless. “Let them both eat cake!” he declares.

Then to hell with you – authoritarianism flows way, way too heatedly and quickly in your blood. The progressives who would oppose forcing socially conservative Christians to honor an abortion at least would vacillate in their totalitarianism, perhaps on account of having a few remaining liberal bones in their bodies. Their selective preference for compelling someone to disobey his conscience, though still worrisome, would be most likely a function of faddish social pressure instead of thorough contemplation on the matter.

On the contrary, the social justice warriors, who would be for compelling everyone in every case, are ossified ideologues. That’s what makes them despicable people. It’s not because of their skin color, religion, sexual orientation or pursuit thereof, but petty vindictiveness. For a perceived slight, a mere dispute in morals, these “victims” and their supporters consistently elect for a hundredfold retaliation: Bring to bear the power of the state to enact financial ruin on their enemies and transgressors ultimately at the behest of a governmental gun barrel. These self-righteous people are not only okay with all that in principle but openly and often lavishly clamor for it.

And somehow conservative Christians are the oppressors imposing their values on everybody else? Yeah, when Lena Dunham and her ilk actually vacate the country.

Try not to run into Trump’s Wall on the way out.

Jan Sobieski IV

For Jan Sobieski IV, the West is on the precipice of ruin again. With interests in journalism and philosophy, he’s a millennial convinced we’re living in another Vienna, 1683. Sobieski IV aspires to help lead the pivotal charge for Western civilization against those seeking to overrun or open her gates—these days, they’re one and the same, deserving nothing but the fury of the winged hussar reborn.

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  1. So-called progressives like to aggressively/obnoxiously push the envelope to see what they can get away with before really causing an outrage. It’s not enough for them to push for and get same-sex marriage; they want to see to it that bakers are forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. There’s nothing libertarian about so-called progressives (which they, in all their pseudo-enlightened, superior-moral-compass mentality, would be happy to proclaim themselves lest they be associated with creeps who don’t measure compassion by how much government control they seek over people’s lives).

    BTW, in and of itself, “progressive” as a label is next to vacuous, signaling (objectively, that is, in denotation) only that one is in favor of progress, a good thing – implying that those who don’t share your progressive attitudes are against progress. What’s really intellectually lazy and bankrupt about this co-opting of the term is that the so-called progressives implicitly (in connotation, surreptitiously) equate progress with *the left-wing ideological agenda*. Labels such as “conservative,” “liberal,” “libertarian,” or “socialist” don’t morally pre-load the label being adopted. So-called progressives, in other words, are intellectual cheaters. They might as well adopt the label “moral superiority / morally superior” and equate that with left-wing ideology; at least it would be more honest and up-front about what they’re attempting to get away with (without doing the hard work of earning their label – cheating and laziness being more of an actual substantive leftist value, after all).

    That being said, I like to think of myself as pretty much as progressive as it gets, being a big admirer and aspiring emulator of Aristotle, and all. Do leftists ever speak of Aristotle or an Aristotelian agenda? How often do the so-called progressive educators ever mention Aristotle in their curricula, anyway? I find Aristotle (and Aquinas) all over the place in, e.g., Mortimer Adler’s hefty books on the western intellectual tradition (‘Great Ideas’ and ‘Great Treasury of Western Thought’). The only ‘canon’ philosopher I recall being mentioned in my public high school curriculum – in advanced placement humanities, no less – was Plato and his Cave allegory. That occupied all of one or one half of a one-hour session, in 4 years. With all their intellectual superiority, and given the very high value of philosophy, why don’t the so-called progressive educators do more philosophical education? Maybe they would learn things like appropriate private/public boundaries rather than turning everything into a so-called progressive political project.

    • Or, and here’s a radical thought: they want to make sure gay people can buy cakes for their weddings.

    • I agree, Ultimate Philosopher.

      You’re right on the term, “progressive.” It’s question-begging like many others employed by the left. I probably should have dropped it for “leftist” across the entire post. I just didn’t want to use “leftist” throughout.

    • I’m sure there are same-sex marriage supporting bakers out there.
      And even if there weren’t, that still doesn’t mean someone has to provide that service.
      I can understand being outraged by it, but it seems like far more than just wanting gay people to buy cakes for their weddings. But then again, maybe progressives really are that totalitarian that they actually will try to have the state force you to do what they want, by the very real threat of prosecution. Even for something as trivial as a cake.

    • Billy Collins,

      If you view same-sex marriage as a coup d’etat, the coerced wedding cakes is consolidation of power to squelch any resistance to the new orthodoxy.

  2. I have long made this distinction myself, so I am glad to see someone else point out what should be obvious: to discriminate against a particular type of event is not the same as discriminating against a class of persons, even if only members of a particular class tends to participate in that event. If someone refuses to lend their services to a militant Black Lives Matter gathering that does not entail that he is discriminating against blacks as a race. If a Jew refuses to lend his services to an Easter event, that does not mean he is discriminating against Christians as a class. If a photographer refuses to photograph a debauched celebration—say, an orgy—no one would fault the photographer for having the right to determine the scope of *events* that form the boundaries of his service. And yet when it comes to providing services to gay weddings, this seems to be the one case where everyone makes an exception and pretends that the normal rules don’t apply and that invidious discrimination against gays as a class of people—even when the evidence uniformly says otherwise—must be taking place for that reason.

    Note that from a purely conceptual point of view, a straight person could theoretically enter into a gay wedding—say for financial reasons—and a gay person could enter into a straight wedding, as sometimes happens, so it is not even true that denying service to a gay wedding even necessarily implicates gays themselves.

    While on this topic, here is an important logical point about marriage that many people fail to notice. The point is simply this: it is logically *impossible* to simultaneously claim that (1) gays should have the right to marry, and (2) claim that society should be allowed to celebrate male-female conjugal unions with anything like a marriage ceremony or marital recognition. They are mutually exclusive: if one believes in gay marriage, one also ipso facto believes that men and women must be prohibited from officially recognizing and celebrating their distinct form of union. That is so because embracing the latter claim necessarily entails excluding anyone but male and female complementarity, which is of course precisely what advocates of marital “equality” deny. Thus, they are implicitly claiming that conjugal relationships are neither worth recognizing by society and indeed must be proscribed entirely, even if the majority of that society does believe it is worth recognizing.

    Suppose that a state decided to rename marriage something else and then restrict this something else to only conjugal unions. Obviously, gays would not be happy about this, and the Supreme Court would not let this stand because it trivializes their judgment entirely with a mere semantic shift. Given that, the question “how does gay marriage hurt your marriage?” is as preposterous on its face so as to defy belief. The whole point of the movement is to actively prevent men and women from publically recognizing their unique—and vitally important due to its role in… oh I don’t know… preserving the species and society—conjugal relationship (if this wasn’t the case, civil unions would be more than adequate to satiate those who demand “equality”). Those who oppose these developments ought to be steaming angry about this blatant attack on their marriages and relationships.

    Suppose that someone claimed that the Medal of Honor was discriminatory because it excludes firefighters and police officers and missionaries and other people who also sometimes exhibit incredible displays of bravery. A movement arises in which people demand that the Medal of Honor be made open to all these other classes of people, and by some strange and absurd movement of fate, the Supreme Court in this parallel world finds the Medal of Honor to be unconstitutional. When recipients of the Medal of Honor protest at the injustice of this development, they are curtly told “but how does allowing these other people the chance to receive the Medal of Honor hurt you? You still can receive the Medal after all.” Such a move would be saying that valor on the battlefield is not worth recognizing by society—indeed, that society is prohibited from recognizing it. So it is with military valor, and so it is with marriage.

    Or have I missed something subtle and important here?

  3. I’m in complete agreement too.

    It’s because the sexual revolutionaries homosexuality to be considered normatively equivalent to heterosexuality. So they can’t permit principled dissent even that derived from freedom of conscience and religion. They’re in the midst of a big social engineering project to rewire a foundational sexual more.

    In an odd way, this has become as much about strategy as a goal, i.e., they have no other choice BUT to force people to affirm the new sexual orthodoxy. Same-sex marriage was sold on the notion it was the next front in civil rights against irrational bigotry — a proposition in which I’m sure most LGBT advocates wholeheartedly believe. To allow principled dissent in this regard (rational opposition to homosexuality) is to tacitly do away with this justification (there is no rational opposition to homosexuality) for same-sex marriage, leaving gay rights without any fuel and vulnerable to conservative counterattack launched from a beachhead of religious liberty and conscience in the culture wars.

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